I ... did... not... sleep ... well! The air mat deflated again overnight .. leaving me on the cold... hard... ground!! So turning from one way to another... swapping the bear spray to the free hand and trying to get my hip in a comfortable position .. did not make for the most restful of nights out I have ever had!
So I got up and packed up my bivvy somewhat grumpily. Then stuffed down some cinnamon rolls for breakfast..washed it down with gatorade and then packed up my bike and rolled out into the slightly chilly morning.
It was gonna be a tough day for sure... despite only having 30 ish miles to the border... they were some of the toughest out there with the infamous 'Wall' to be faced. Before I got there however... there was what is described as 12+ miles of rolling trail. Rolling trail... uhuh . Up up and more up would have been a better description!! I was clearly not in a great mood to start with. And it was already getting hot... and with it resurfaced dehydration worries.
My bad mood dissapated slightly with the sight of all the little creatures diving in their burrows as I came along... some kind of prarie dog... squirrels... mice and rabbits all were out this morning and the sheer number of them was astounding. It also meant you had to watch where your wheels went... Reading potholes have nuthin on a prarie dog burrow. And you also had to watch out for the odd suicidal one... darting in front of the wheel. So many other things apart from bears to worry about!!
The 12 and a bit miles eventually relented into a downhill stretch before the sharp turn off the main trail. This was a bit of 'singletrack' described as rough to begin with but then gradually more defined. More defined.. my a#$€. If you call an overgrown mess of brambles... stinging nettles and branches through an occasional stream and bog.. then yes!
Regardless... this singletrack wound alongside the river for a couple of miles and once again I startled a Moose. This time it didnt startle me quite so much as it wasnt right next to me when it bolted.
Then the trail came to an abrupt end... or did it??
Stretching up the hillside was a sheer thinly veiled excuse for a 'path' (worse than my normal definition Nic and David J). When I say sheer... I mean 'get behind your bike and push it above your head and then put the brakes on so you dont both slip down the mountainside' kinda sheer... and I am not exaggerating. It is called The Wall for a reason. It took every ounze of strength I could muster to haul it up there. With every sinew straining I got it up the first bit... held on to the brakes tightly and pulled myself up. This then had to be repeated for 1/4 mile straight up. At one point the dry dusty 'path' didnt hold enough purchase and both me and my bike skidded... the weight of the bike almost toppling me down the mountain. Adrenaline racing... heart pumping hard I kept dragging my bike up this wall.
I now realise why tennis players and other athletes grunt and scream with the effort they were making... I certainly was and it did help... or maybe it was the expletives that were helping!! I have the ascent on video recorded from my action cam so will be interesting to see that bit of trail again😁
Eventually the gradient eased off and it was only a slight slog uphill. I was by now sweating profusely and didnt mind getting my feet soaked in the myriad of streams and rivulets that gushed down the mountain. I had decided to bring the merino wool socks and am so glad I did because they seem to dry quickly and keep my feet warm even when wet. Highly recommended!
At one point on the slight slog uphill I thought I saw a hummingbird. Now Im not sure you get these in Canada so it must have been a normal bird who had found a can of red bull! Shame it wasnt sharing!
So The Wall eventually came out on a slightly better trail up to Galton Pass. It was actually not too bad to start with and I managed to cycle some but got steeper as it approached the 6000ft mark. At points I felt very hemmed in by the forest but there were no surprises there. What I did love about this place were the myriad of wildflowers splashing the hillsides in every kind of colour. I crawled up the last part and was just nearing the high point when I looked up to see a group of three cyclists. They were waiting on a puncture repair. One of them had bikepacking bags like I did.. one had panniers... and the third had a trailer. A trailer!!!
They were all originally from either italy.. belgium and were joined by a fourth from france but all worked in germany and had done a kind of divide tour from pinedale up.
I told them about the bridge being out and our re route and was really worried about them attempting to go down The Wall! It was dangerous enough up... never mind down and with a trailer!!
We chatted for a while and they reassured me that it was all downhill to the border. I dont think it was just the negative gradient which cheered me up. It was nice a) to see people and b) that they were cyclists so we could compare notes 😁😁🐻 It also turns out that they were registered to be bone marrow donors and knew about DKMS.. the charity that LHS partners with to register stem cell donors! Excellent!
I was now happy that I would have plenty of time to spare to get to Eureka so entered the downhill chilled out. And what a downhill!! Smooth ish and pretty quick. I slowed into corners to make sure I wasnt about to bump into a bear. But it was one of the nicest descents yet. And as curved round... Montana came into view! It was as I thought it would be... rolling fields and mountains in the distance. Bucket list tick 👍 I screamed round the final few corners onto the main road to the border post and as I came down to tarmac... the heat hit me. It was furnace like. And the wind made it into a fan assisted furnace!
Already burnt to a crisp this was cinderising me (now its a word!)
Up to the border I rolled and waited patiently in the q of 4 cars. Eventually my turn came and I was directed inside the building for a fingerprint and eye scanning detection test. All accomplished... they hadn't found out about my Mafia connections (just kidding folks) and I was left to roll into Montana... the Big Sky State. The road the race organisers had picked out to Eureka was convoluted and the hills even on tarmac hurt my legs but I was nearly at the final destination for today and so picked up speed whenever I could. I passed the sign for a motel in the opposite direction and one motel which had No Vacancy... continued rolling into town and through it... and out the other side ! No more motels hmmmm.
Now because Im in America thanks to 3, now I can use my mobile mins and data here as if I'm at home. So on went google maps and an accomodation search.
One up tobacco road.... cycled there... nope cant see one. A BandB... phoned them.. nope not a BandB anymore. So Im googling again by the roadside when this young lady walks up to me and asks if Im lost? Just looking for a place to stay... motel... BandB... I replied.
You can stay with me... we do the Warmshowers thing for cyclists! What a stroke of luck. I did warmshowers a couple of times on my cycle of Route 66. Basically the host provides bed...shower and maybe laudry facilities etc for free. In return they can use warmshowers hosts themselves.
Okay... so I was a little wary... going with a random stranger... but she seemed pretty cool and as she left me in her house whilst she went out for a few hours ... she was trusting me a lot more than I was trusting her! Christiana and her boyfriend Curtiss have hosted a fair few cyclists although they are bigger walkers... having hiked the Appalacian trail and half of the CDT which is very impressive.
They gave me a bed ... shower... and I am now friends with their cat for life!
I love the randomness...
Goodnight (still clutching Bear Spray 🐻😴)